Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant
The COVID-19 vaccine is currently available for most Americans across the United States (distribution differs across states.) Depending on the brand of vaccine you receive, you’ll either need one or two doses. It’s common for patients to experience side effects after the first and/or second doses – so don’t be alarmed if you’re feeling fatigued, feverish, and achy after you receive your vaccinations. In contrary to common COVID-19 vaccine myths, the vaccine does not change your DNA.
It’s important to note that most side effects resolve within 72 hours, and regardless of the side effects patients experience, they should still get the second dose of the vaccine at the recommended interval.
Here are several tips for managing side effects after you receive the vaccine.
1. Keep using your arm.
The vaccine is given in the deltoid muscle in the upper arm. It’s common for patients to experience pain or muscle soreness at the injection site for a day or two after the injection. Remember to keep using your arm, even if it’s sore since this improves blood flow, which can help your arm heal faster.
2. Take an over-the-counter medication.
Vaccine experts don’t recommend taking an over-the-counter medication for pain or fever prior to receiving the vaccine since it’s not clear if these medications affect the efficacy of the vaccine.
However, if you experience a headache, body aches, chills, or a fever afterward, these over-the-counter medications can help alleviate your symptoms and make you more comfortable.
If you’re on other medications, have underlying health conditions or if you’re not sure what medication or dose is right for you, consult a healthcare provider before you take anything.
3. Get plenty of rest.
Vaccines work by stimulating your immune system to produce antibodies to a pathogen so that if you get exposed to that pathogen in the future, your body can effectively fight it off before it causes an infection.
Sleep is imperative to your immune system’s ability to function well and produce the antibodies and other cells it needs to keep you healthy. When you’re asleep, your body takes the energy from functions you’re not using during sleep and sends that energy to your immune system instead. The more sleep you get after receiving the vaccine, the more energy your immune system will have to ramp up its COVID-19 antibody production.
4. Drink lots of fluids.
After receiving the vaccine, some patients experience a fever, which is a sign that their immune system has been effectively activated by the vaccine. Another side effect is that people can experience a diminished appetite. Both of these side effects can lead to dehydration.
Fevers can cause dehydration because water evaporates from warm skin at a faster rate. And people can also become dehydrated when they lose their appetite and eat and drink less.
To prevent dehydration, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids after you get the vaccine. Any fluid without alcohol or caffeine counts toward hydration, including water, herbal tea, electrolyte beverages, and juices. Most people need to drink at least two liters of fluid a day to stay hydrated.
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